Do Your Research Before Negotiation

Many of us negotiate as parts of our jobs. Here are Get-It-Done Guy’s effective tips for how to prep your negotiation and improve your chances for success.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #267

Do Your Research Before Negotiation

It doesn’t matter how skilled you are, how much you have to offer, or the results you deliver; you’ll never benefit from any of it if you aren’t a good negotiator. Good negotiators do research before they begin the negotiation.

Now that her business is going like gang-busters, my pal Bernice has decided to return her attention to her wedding. Specifically, the cake. She wants a sheet cake that feeds 250 people, featuring a complete replica of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat done entirely in buttercream frosting. By hand. Dot by dot.

She’s found a baker who’s an artist. His name is Louis, and everybody loves him. He’s pleasant, he’s fair, and he’s generous. But he’s not quite generous enough to agree to Bernice’s terms. He wants $2,500. She’s prepared to offer $150. Even as I speak, she’s rolling up her sleeves to enter the negotiation.

With this much disparity between the offers, I doubt they’ll reach agreement. Yes, she’s on a tight budget, but Bernice has unrealistic expectations for price. If she doesn’t want to be laughed out of the room the moment she makes her offer, she needs to do her background research. Fortunately, she knows that.

Understand the Other Side

The more Bernice knows about what’s going on in Louis’s mind, the better she’ll be able to reach an agreement that works for both of them. In an ideal world, she would do a Vulcan mind-meld with Louis, and know his negotiating position perfectly. Unfortunately, she isn’t a Vulcan, and this isn’t a perfect world.

Before negotiating, use the internet for research.

Before negotiating, it makes sense to use the internet for something other than posting pictures of food on your news stream (why do people do that?). Google the other person’s name, their company name, and their industry. Spend some time reading up on any news, hobbies, transactions, takeovers, personal triumphs, and/or profiles that might help you understand the person you’re negotiating with.

Bernice’s quick Google search found an interview in which Louis was discussing opening his new bakery. In it, he says “It’s plain, and we don’t have much money for fixing it up yet, but I’m hoping it’ll bring in the dough.” Hmm…interesting…Louis likes puns. Hazmat suits will be necessary.

Learn Their Point of View

You can also talk to someone else in the same industry to get an insider’s take on what will be important in a negotiation. Bakeries are regional, so Bernice called a bakery in a nearby town and asked to speak to the owner. She said, quite frankly, “I’m about to negotiate for my wedding cake. I know I can’t pay what he’s asking, and I want to understand what’s important to a baker so I can find a way to pay in other ways. Would you be willing to tell me about what it’s like to run your business, and what kind of things are important to you as a baker?”

The first three bakers she called said, “No, I’m too busy running my bakery.” But the fourth agreed to talk.

Now the only question was what to ask!


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.